"But I thought I was going to Africa."
To tell you the truth, I tried writing this blog post about three different times. It’s funny how the things that are the closest to our hearts, the things that we are the most passionate about are the hardest things for us to express and to put into words. Missions is one of those things for me.
For as long as I can remember, I have wanted to be a missionary. Though my parents grew up agnostic and Catholic and were saved and married in a Baptist church, they chose to raise me in a Pentecostal environment. We were at church every time the doors were open. I heard missionary after missionary share their heart and tell their story and challenge us to get going because the world was big and in desperate need of Jesus. I waited and waited for Him to call me. To ask me to go.
At the time I believed to Africa. Because back then I believed there had to be a place. Perhaps I just wanted there to be a place. That’s honestly the first time I have ever let that thought leave my brain.
At any rate I do know that He put Africa deep within my heart.
But what that meant when I was fourteen and what it means now are two very different things.
Here I am at 27.5 years of age teaching preschool to a bunch of Indian kids in Guadalajara, Mexico. It really doesn’t make any sense to me or to most people for that matter. We all thought I was going to Africa. But here we are. Because God called. Because He spoke. And because actually it’s all about obedience. It’s about saying yes to whatever things He puts in our hearts whenever He puts them there.
There were many things I planned to write about in this post. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t seem to get my thoughts together or to write them in a way that made any sense. Instead I am simply going to speak from exactly where I am because that seems to be where I write the best.
Here, I am doing some serious heart inventory. This job has been difficult to say the least. Spending every day in a tiny classroom with a lot of tiny people has showed me things about myself that I do not like and that I am certain cannot stay if I intend to move forward in missionary life. Here, I am so aware of how prideful and independent I am, how much I rely on my own talent and abilities to carry me through. Here, I am learning the hard way that daily I must admit that I cannot do it and ask that He do it for me. Here, I am learning to get out of the way so that He can show up and change lives…that is my job plain and simple.
Here, I have had to ask myself, “Why Africa?” Lately I have come to the realization that for my entire life I have felt guilty that I have received so much of God’s favor and blessing while it seems that so many others did not. I realize that my motives in moving my life across the ocean to work with the broken and orphaned might be more about me than they are about God or His call. That some part of me might be trying to balance out what seems unjust to me. That since I have been given so much I should then give everything and go to the places no one wants to go to do the things that no one wants to do. That perhaps I am somehow trying to restore balance and justice to the world and repay what I owe, my life. When I am honest with myself, really honest, I know it’s because in the end I want Him to be proud and I want Him to see that I was willing to do anything and go anywhere for Him.
I am realizing and admitting that perhaps though my intentions are good, they are not pure and they are not necessarily in line with God’s heart and intentions. It is not my job to bring balance and justice to a world that I cannot possibly understand from my human perspective. And, as good as my intentions might be, I will be ineffective if I don’t go with the heart of God in place of my own and with His motives and purposes leading me. It is His job to determine how my life is used. I do believe that Africa is part of the plan. It is a part of me. It beats in my heart. But, until I can honestly and with certainty say that I am going because God is sending me and I know what it is He wants me to do when I get there, I should not go. Instead I should live in obedience trusting each step and the entire journey to Him. I should leave the plans and the timelines to Him. I should accept that the detours and the difficulties are most certainly part of Him getting me wherever it is He needs me to go.
Here, I am learning to let go of my version of His call. Here, I am learning to give back what is His. For too long I have owned the call. I have carried it as my own and I have filled my head and my heart with my ideas and versions of it. It’s time that I recognize this too is a gift from Him and He determines how it should be used in my life. I have to accept that it’s okay if I don’t begin life across the ocean before I am thirty or even after I am thirty. That it’s actually okay to admit that I might not want to go alone.
Here is the only place He could have opened my eyes to these things and these parts of myself.
I know that.
I am reminded of Paul in Acts 27 and 28. This story is always an encouragement to me. Paul was certain of His call but He was never so certain that He refused to let God get him there however and whenever he chose. Paul endured many hardships and detours and arrived in the land of his calling long after he imagined he would. But we know the end of Paul’s story and journey and we know that each of those hardships and detours refined Paul and gave many more people the opportunity to know Jesus than had He gone straight to Rome.
And so it is with me. So it is with you.
We are all called to something. God has put purposes deep inside of us and created us to fulfill them. Whether we are living those out today or on our way, let’s ask ourselves the hard questions. Today, let’s be certain that we have left it all in His hands and that we remember it’s actually all about obedience. That the call is for a lifetime and it happens in the getting there and in the arriving.
What is it that you are certain God has put in your heart?
Is it a place or a certain ministry or a call to serve Him wholeheartedly in everyday life?
Have you checked your motives lately?
Is this His calling or yours?
Are you working on your terms and your timelines or His?
Whatever life looks like for you today. Whatever it is He is asking from you. Wherever you might be on your journey. Tell yourself, it’s always all about obedience.